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Lehigh University > United Nations Partnerships > UN Trip Summaries >
The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Achieving the United Nations “Generational Imperatives”: A Special Briefing with
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

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UN Trip Summary
October 26, 2011

Brandon Knettel, NGO Delegate and Counseling Psychology Graduate Student

The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Achieving the United Nations “Generational Imperatives”: A Special Briefing with
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon


On October 26, 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat down with a group of individuals representing non-governmental organizations from around the world. As a youth delegate in the United Nations partnership at Lehigh University, I have the opportunity to represent a Nigerian organization called African Citizens Development Foundation (ACDF) at the UN. For ACDF, I am a liaison and an advocate; I attend briefings, network with others who share the organization’s interests, and work to ensure that issues that are important to ACDF are receiving adequate attention. While the panelists at these meetings are generally highly qualified experts, a meeting with someone of Mr. Ban’s stature presented a special opportunity to gain an insight into world leadership.
            At Secretary-General Ban’s briefing, I was pleased to see that the needs of Africa and the developing world were certainly a key topic. Mr. Ban’s presentation was a reflection on the recent 64th Annual DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany and an outline of his priorities for his second term. The UN leader was easygoing and charismatic, a pleasant change from the more professional persona we often see in the news. The Secretary-General was outspoken in his first term, publicly challenging leaders of many nations to take a more tolerant and peaceful approach. In keeping with these actions, the Secretary-General’s message was clear: the United Nations must form a “tripartite partnership” with national governments, NGOs, and businesses to promote human rights and positive growth. The specific agenda of this coalition directly mirrors the “generational imperatives,” Mr. Ban has outlined for his five-year term, including the reduction of global conflict, human rights and accountability, and sustainable development. The key to this message is that nations face a variety of challenges – some unique and some shared. For those shared challenges, “multistate platforms and coalitions” are more equipped to develop and implement shared solutions.
            When given the opportunity to ask questions of the Secretary-General, NGO representatives were assertive in making their needs known. The chair of the NGO-DPI Executive Committee expressed concern about the lack of attention and monetary support provided to NGOs by the UN. In response, the Secretary-General once again emphasized the importance of collaboration in shared goals, citing the role of civil society in North Africa in the recent revolutions there. While Mr. Ban was hesitant to outline specific shortcomings in the past or steps to be taken in the future, he did say that he continues to value the role of NGOs in international peacekeeping and that he will work to maintain a dialogue with NGO leaders. Additional questions from NGO representatives directly addressed the Secretary-General’s goals for his second term. In response, Mr. Ban emphasized the importance of sustainable development and corporate accountability, specifically in developing countries. When presented with a question about the rights of women and children, he pointed to leadership positions within the UN where women have taken over a variety of key roles since the beginning of Mr. Ban’s term.
            Ultimately, the meeting with the Secretary-General was a reaffirmation of Mr. Ban’s support for the work of NGOs throughout the world. He enthusiastically supported the declaration from the recent DPI/NGO conference in Bonn and emphasized the need for NGO support in the implementation of his goals for the next five years. As a representative of a Nigerian NGO, I was also pleased to learn of Mr. Ban’s focus on developing nations and ensuring basic human rights to all people. In an era where many nations are in limbo and others are in open conflict with their own people, this is a message we all need to hear. As we look to the next five years, there is hope that the Secretary-General’s vision of worldwide progress toward peace and equality may begin to bear fruit. 

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